Nov 22, 2010 – Washington – Bangladeshi doctor Pradip K Bardhan knows how easy it is to treat cholera. His hospital in Dhaka sees nearly 140,000 cholera patients each year, with a near-zero fatality rate.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates an annual burden of 3-5 million cholera cases and 100,000-120,000 deaths. While the disease can kill within hours if left untreated, no one needs to die from cholera. A simple sugar-and-salt solution can revive even the severely dehydrated.
In Bangladesh, women have learnt that a sari folded four to five times can be used to filter out cholera-causing bacteria from drinking water.
But things are infinitely more complicated in Haiti, where Bardhan has spent close to three weeks at the request of WHO and where the cholera death toll has crossed 1,250.
This is, after all, a country struggling to recover from an earthquake in January that killed 230,000 people and left more than 1.5 million homeless.
There was no respite after Hurricane Tomas as a cholera outbreak emerged and swiftly spread to Port-au-Prince, the capital city of tattered, overcrowded tents, rubble and open sewers.
Nov 22, 2010 - SciDev.Net: The La Niña weather phenomenon plus the plunge in water and sanitation quality following January’s earthquake may be to blame for the outbreak
Weather conditions — not UN soldiers — may have triggered Haiti‘s cholera epidemic, which has killed more than 1,000 people in less than a month, three leading researchers have told SciDevNet.
A coincidence of several catastrophic events — from climatic changes caused by the ocean-atmosphere phenomenon La Niña, to the plunge in water and sanitation quality following Haiti’s disastrous January earthquake — provide the most likely explanation for the outbreak, which has hospitalised 17,000 people.
The outbreak suddenly appeared in smal communities along the Artibonite River, 60 miles north of the capitalPort-au-Prince, on 21 October. Its origin has not been determined with certainty but the popular belief is that the disease arrived with infected UN soldiers from Nepal. They were stationed in a rural base near the river where the outbreak first started. Cholera is endemic in Nepal whereas Haiti has not had a recorded cholera case in the last 50 years.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a press release earlier this month that genetic analysis of the cholera strain that hit Haiti reveals that it most closely matches South Asian strains, which further fuelled the suspicion.
But scientists SciDev.Net talked to all rejected the idea that cholera was imported from Nepal. “Vibrio cholerae, the bacterium responsible for cholera, may have been dormant in water until weather-related conditions caused it to multiply enough to constitute an infective dose if ingested by humans,” said David Sack, a cholera specialist at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US.
Rita Colwell, a professor at the University of Maryland, also in the US, agreed that the aquatic environment conditions produced by a strong La Niña this year may have made cholera flare up in Haiti for the first time in 50 years.
Nov 22, 2010 – The Public health and education authorities today join in a grand nationwide campaign against cholera including the teachers and students of all the country’s schools and will boost the work by the Public Health Ministry to prevent its spread in the communities.
So far the country has only three confirmed cases of the disease, after the authorities discarded that a Dominican missionary was hospitalized in Dajabón with symptoms similar had come down with the ailment.
On Sunday Public Health minister Bautista Rojas said the missionary Yisel Ramirez, 28, was admitted to the Mella hospital after her return from Haiti, but several lab tests conducted by epidemiologists at the border resulted negative.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, 22 November 2010 (PlusNews) – As the death toll from the cholera epidemic sweeping through Haiti surpasses 1,000, with more than 19,000 confirmed cases, health officials say people living with HIV are especially vulnerable.
Only about 25 percent of people infected with cholera develop symptoms – mainly watery diarrhoea and vomiting – but people already weakened by illness, malnutrition or pregnancy are particularly at risk.
Nov 22, 2010 - Aid agencies are trying to step up their work in Haiti, where a cholera outbreak is now known to have killed 1,250 people since last month.
Aid efforts, especially in the worst-hit areas in the north, were disrupted last week by protesters who blame UN peacekeepers for spreading the disease.
Officials said the security situation there had stabilised.
Campaigning is meanwhile in full swing for Sunday’s elections despite some calls for a postponement.
Voters are due to elect a new president and members of the legislature.
Late on Friday, four candidates appealed for the election to be delayed so authorities could focus on tackling the cholera outbreak.
Dan Campbell, Web
Environmental Health at USAID
1611 North Kent St., Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22209
Environmental Health at USAID: http://www.ehproject.org
Indoor Air Pollution Updates: http://iapnews.wordpress.com
Sanitation Updates: http://sanitationupdates.wordpress.com
Urban Health Updates: http://urbanhealthupdates.wordpress.com
Cholera Google Group: http://groups.google.com/group/cholera-control
Household Water Treatment Google Group: http://groups.google.com/group/household-water-treatment